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The red lamp cleaner grass is a fascinating ornamental plant that brings color to the garden with its reddish splendor and long spikes. The plant, which can be up to 70 cm high, comes into its own in perennial beds and in Mediterranean garden areas. Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' is undemanding in cultivation, but has one weak point: the feather bristle grass is not winter-proof. In order to get the perennial plant through the cold season unscathed, you should make preparations.


Optimal conditions for the winter

The gently swaying spikes of Pennisetum setaceum rubrum delight many gardeners. The lamp cleaner grass can be used in a variety of ways in ornamental beds and as a wayside border. Compared to other types of feather bristle grass, the 'Rubrum' variety only has a small growth height. As a result, the plant also beautifies the terrace and the sunny balcony. Originally, the ornamental grass is at home in the Mediterranean area and in Africa. There it prefers to thrive in stony, dry regions. Warm continuous rain and storms can hardly harm the robust variety.

Pennisetum grass is tolerant of drought and prolonged periods of heat. In full sun, the ornamental plant unfolds its fascinating reddish color nuances. However, the wet and cold winters in our latitudes put the exotics under enormous pressure. Only in a few exceptional cases is it possible to get the plants outdoors unscathed through the cold season.

The planting site should have the following conditions:

  • sheltered from the wind
  • warm
  • the proximity of stone walls and walls has proven itself

Regions with mild winters are ideal for wintering outdoors. It is difficult to determine which region is suitable for this on the basis of a map. The general statement that the wine regions in southern Germany have moderate weather and temperatures even in the cold season is only partially true. A thick and long-lasting snow cover can also protect the plants from frost.

Overwinter outdoors

Hibernation outdoors

In order to winterize Pennisetum setaceum rubrum in the garden, you should make suitable preparations in early autumn.

  • tie the long ears together
  • apply a thick layer of bark mulch
  • alternatively fall back on brushwood

In nurseries and garden centers you can get special foils and fleece for the winter protection of plants. However, the lamp cleaner grass also needs sufficient light in winter. For this reason, you should not completely wrap the ornamental plant with the frost-proof material. A maximum of the lower half of the ornamental grass can be packed with it to protect against cold and sub-zero temperatures.

In contrast to evergreen plants, you do not have to water the bushy, upright plant in winter. Wet feet can even kill exotic grasses. When choosing the location, ensure that the terrain is slightly sloping and that the soil has good drainage. This can be achieved, for example, by using expanded clay or small pebbles in the substrate. As a result, the excess water flows off quickly even in winter and cannot damage the roots.

You can do without the supply of nutrients. Only a few perennials are able to process fertilizer sufficiently in the cold season. In some cases, the excessive supply of minerals stimulates the plants to grow vigorously. The disadvantage: the growth is weakened, the shoots are weak and grow uncontrollably.

  • remove the winter protection only in the warm spring
  • apply a layer of compost
  • pruning should only be done after winter

Instead of compost, you can use bark mulch all year round. This material decomposes slowly. In this way, the soil is enriched with nutrients during the main growing season. In winter, the wooden pieces warm the substrate and the underground parts of the plant.

Overwinter in the tub

Waiting for spring in the bucket

Despite intensive preparatory work and high-quality materials, nobody can predict or influence the weather in the cold season. Rain and prolonged sub-zero temperatures can lead to the death of the ornamental plant. However, Pennisetum setaceum rubrum can easily be cultivated in sufficiently large pots. This makes it almost effortless to change location. The best time to move is as soon as the outdoor temperatures drop permanently into the single digits.

  • water the plant sufficiently before moving
  • is fertilized until the end of August
  • remove annoying weeds from the flower pot

If you cut back the ornamental grass before relocating to winter quarters, you can overwinter the plant in a dark room. The red lamp cleaner grass should not be exposed to direct sunlight.

The following points have proven themselves:

  • avoid direct sunlight
  • the ambient temperature should be between 8° - 12° C
  • frost-free basements are just as suitable as the staircase or the garage
  • high humidity is not absolutely necessary
  • Pests cannot harm the crop in winter

You can do without care in the cold season. Pennisetum setaceum rubrum should remain in a cold-proof room until March or April. Only then is the ideal time to move the ornamental grass to its usual location in the garden. In the first step, the substrate is watered vigorously and liquid fertilizer is administered to the plant.


The planter in the wintry garden

Depending on the age and size of the exotic grass, the flower pot can weigh enormously. One way to winterize the plants indoors is to rejuvenate the plant in autumn. To do this, the root ball is divided into pieces of equal size with a sharp spade. Another possibility: Overwinter the jar with the red pennisetum in the garden. Wrap the entire pot generously with burlap and cover the substrate with bark mulch. Similar to the year-round cultivation in ornamental beds, this variant is particularly suitable for mild regions.

Pennisetum setaceum rubrum is a fascinating plant that can be combined with other ornamental grasses and tall perennials. When planting in a tub, the design options are often limited. You can remedy this with a trick: dig large containers, such as mortar tubs from the hardware store, into the ground. These holes are not noticeable from a distance, and you can easily remove the pennisetum grass in the fall.

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